Tracking Media Development Donor Support: An Update on 2016 Funding Levels

Tracking donor efforts to support media development is fundamental to assessing whether enough resources are being directed at these efforts, and whether those resources are being channeled to the areas of most pressing need. From 2015 to 2016, overall levels of donor support for global media development remained largely unchanged. This is according to the latest data published by CIMA as part of our Media Development Donor Profiles initiative, which aims to give the broader media development community a better understanding of the efforts of donors, both public and private, in supporting news media development worldwide. When the new data from 2016 is compared to our previous reporting on media development funding levels in 2015, we see that support from individual donors has remained relatively constant.

The information available on our website about donor funding levels and priorities is the result of an annual, voluntary survey that is sent to specific media development donors. All of the numbers are self-reported, and inclusion is based on donor willingness to participate. By profiling individual donors, we hope to capture some of the specific donor strategies that otherwise might not be captured in larger aggregate funding analyses.

Media Development Support in 2016

DonorType of Donor 2016 Media Development Support (US$)
EU CommissionPublic$80,815,000
European Endowment for DemocracyPublic$3,665,000
French Ministry of Foreign AffairsPublic$8,428,000
Gates FoundationPrivate$23,000,000
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and DevelopmentPublic$20,228,400
Global Affairs CanadaPublic$3,000,000
Japan International Cooperation AgencyPublic$1,548,740
Knight FoundationPublic$25,000,000
Media Development Investment FundPrivate$3,700,000
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of NetherlandsPublic$28,669,400
National Endowment for DemocracyPublic$23,406,518
Omidyar NetworkPrivate$3,600,000
Open Society FoundationsPrivate$10,700,000
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)Public$42,000,000
Note: Includes only donors that provided 2016 funding numbers. All amounts converted to US dollars for comparability purposes.

Expanding our Coverage of Media Development Donors

Notably, this year we have added two important donors to the list: The European Commission and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia (DFAT) and. In addition to the new information provided by these two donors, we have been able to update data for fourteen previously profiled donors. Overall we now have profiles of twenty-three of the most important media development donors available on our website.

New Media Development Donor Profiles
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia (DFAT)
European Commission

Updated Media Development Donor Profiles
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
European Endowment for Democracy
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Global Affairs Canada
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
Knight Foundation
Media Democracy Fund
Media Development Investment Fund
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
National Endowment for Democracy
Omidyar Foundation
Open Society Foundation
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency

A Rise in Media Development Funding Had Yet to Materialize in 2016

In many ways, 2016 was a watershed year in terms of popular recognition of the powerful role media plays in our societies. There was a general realization that the a weakened media ecosystem can be seriously detrimental to broader social cohesion as the spread of disinformation and media capture by political interests can distort the public sphere. In response, during 2016 and 2017 a number of donors announced increased financial support for media development. However, based on the responses provided to CIMA, these significant commitments have not yet been reflected in donor budgets.

Surprising Shifts in Donor Priorities

The top five funding priorities as reported by donors who responded to CIMA’s latest survey provide an interesting snapshot of how many donors are targeting their support. The importance of priorities is self-reported by donors and does not necessarily correlate to the amount of money they are spending on each programmatic theme. Nonetheless, these are useful in understanding how donors conceptualize their work, and what type of projects they consider to be most needed. Investigative journalism, access to information, and freedom of information remain in the top five when compared with CIMA’s 2015 survey of donor priorities. New additions to the list include journalist training and direct assistance to media outlets, while business sustainability and internet freedom no longer appear. Given that worldwide the subscription and advertising model that has traditionally supported independent media has worsened over the past few years, it is perhaps no surprise that donors now appear willing to provide more direct assistance to media outlets for basic operations in order to keep them afloat.

The Geography of Media Development Support

In order to truly understand the contours of media development donor, it is important to understand where donors are focusing their support. This year we asked donors to provide a more specific regional breakdown of their support. The responses illustrate how some donors have particular geographic priorities, like DFAT which operates exclusively in Asia, while other are much more global in focus. For example, upwards of 54% of the Open Society Foundations support is multi-regional. Going forward, observing changes in where donors are providing support will be useful in understanding their interests and strategies.

Regional Breakdown of Media Development Support in 2016

DonorAfricaAsiaEuropeEurasiaNorth AmericaLatin AmericaMiddle EastMulti-Regional
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia (DFAT)100%
EU Commission22%25%22%8%23%
European Endowment for Democracy6%17%77%
French Ministry of Foreign Affairs55%10%5%3%
Gates Foundation24%10%30%36%
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Develpment41%23%12%10%14%
Global Affairs Canada6%30%54%10%
Japan International Cooperation Agency22%32%46%
Knight Foundation2%2%1%2%92%2%
Media Democracy Fund1%3%6%3%85%2%
Media Development Investment Fund5%40%35%20%
National Endowment for Democracy13%21%16%15%17%16%2%
Omidyar Network50%40%10%
Open Society Foundations8%9%5%5%10%7%54%
Note: Regions with the highest percentage of media development support are highlighted in bold. All regional categories and percentage totals are donor reported. Not all donors use the same regional categories for programmatic or reporting purposes.

Next Steps: Building the Baseline for Tracking Media Development Support

Tracking levels of donor support and funding priorities for a specific sector, like media development, is not easy. This is due to a variety of factors, including a long reporting lag time for many large donors, as well as the fact that media development funding is often spread over a number of different departments and thematic areas. The lack of a common budget code for these projects makes tracking funding – even within donor organizations – quite challenging sometimes. However, without taking stock of current financial support for media development coming from donors, it is nearly impossible to know whether enough resources are being put to the task, and whether they are being directed in the right direction.

CIMA will continue our efforts to track media development support. This includes updating funding numbers and priorities on donors as the information becomes available to us. For example, the US Government is one of is one of the largest media development donors worldwide via State Department and USAID projects, however we have not yet received an update on their 2016 figures. More importantly, we will continue adding profiles on the important donors who we have not yet profiled.

As policymakers and philanthropists recognize the truly monumental challenges facing media development worldwide, the likelihood that we will see more dramatic changes in funding over the next five years is very high. By tracking individual donors over time, we hope to document these important shifts in funding and priorities.

Daniel O’Maley is the Deputy Editor and Digital Policy Specialist at the Center for International Media Assistance. In addition to managing CIMA’s donor tracking efforts, he also leads CIMA’s efforts to strengthen media development sector engagement in global internet governance. Find him on Twitter at @domaley

Marguerite Sullivan, an independent media and communications consultant, conducted research and analysis that has made the 2016 update to our media development donor profiles possible.

Malak Monir, CIMA’s Research Intern, performed important data compilation and statistical analysis used in this post. 

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